Jones Act

IBU - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 10:10
Categories: Unions

fleet memo for October 21 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:40
Categories: Unions

fleet memo for October 14 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:40
Categories: Unions

Commonwealth Club building preserves ILWU history

ILWU - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:00

Honoring longshore history: Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux (left) and ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams in front of the plaque commemorating the 1934 Waterfront Strike outside of the Commonwealth Club’s new headquarters.

and turbulent origins.

1934 longshore strike headquarters

The story begins almost ten years ago when the Commonwealth Club – America’s oldest public affairs forum – began searching for a site to build their new headquarters in San Francisco. They discovered a long-abandoned property with an old collapsed office building facing the Embarcadero waterfront in front and Steuart Street in back. They soon realized this run-down property served as the office for longshore workers in Local 38-79 of the International Longshoremen’s Association between 1933-1935 when they struggled to build a union that eventually became today’s ILWU. 

Preserving worker history

“Other developers might have just demolished the old building and ignored the history, but the Commonwealth Club took it seriously and worked with us,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. He explained that ILWU officers were contacted early by the Commonwealth Club and were invited to help preserve the building’s unique history. The International officers assembled a committee to assist with historical documentation for the site, consisting of ILWU staffer Robin Walker, who serves as the ILWU’s Librarian, Archivist and Education Director; ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz; and Bay Area pensioner John Fisher. The effort resulted in a productive collaboration that lasted years as the project unfolded.

Hosting public forums

The cooperation yielded results beginning in 2014 when the Commonwealth Club hosted a public forum for ILWU leaders and allies to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Maritime Strike. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay served as Program Chair and fellow Local 10 member/Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered remarks, along with comments from historians Robert Cherny and Harvey Schwartz, Labor Council Director Tim Paulson and SF Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte. A recording of the sold-out event remains accessible on the Club’s website.

 Building’s exterior preserved

Another significant gesture made by the Club to honor the building’s history came when a decision was reached – at some expense – for architect Marsha Maytum to preserve and restore the building’s original crumbling exterior façade on Steuart Street.

Plaque to tell the story

In addition, the Commonwealth Club worked with the ILWU to design a plaque installed on the building’s Stueart Street entrance to honor the events in 1934 including the Waterfront Strike and San Francisco General Strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Educational video inside

Inside the buildings entrance and reception area, the Club is developing an educational video that will further showcase the building’s history involving worker struggles.

ILWU in opening ceremony

And finally, on September 12, 2017, the grand opening ceremony for the Club’s new headquarters included remarks by ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer and Port Commission President Willie Adams – along with acknowledgement of the ILWU’s historic role made by Commonwealth CEO Gloria Duffy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim. Also recognized and participating was ILWU Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux. Adams and Thibeaux unveiled the newly installed plaque to more than 100 guests and reporters who attended the event.  “This building is where Harry Bridges and other leaders planned the 1934 waterfront strike that changed history in San Francisco and other west coast ports – and sent out shock waves that inspired workers around the world,” said Adams. He also noted that the restored building is just a few doors down from the corner of Steuart and Mission where two strikers – Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise – were killed by police on July 5, marking a date that became known as Bloody Thursday. Bodies of the slain martyrs were taken inside the old longshore offices where they laid in repose for several days, allowing thousands of mourners to visit and honor their sacrifice.

Lectures about ILWU & 1934

After guests passed by the newly installed plaque to enter the light-filled, energy-efficient building, they were treated to food, drink and brief lectures scheduled throughout the afternoon from local historian Rick Evans, Architect Marsha Maytum and Club CEO Gloria Duffy – all of whom acknowledged the ILWU’s role in the new headquarters building.

 A growing institution

The Commonwealth Club was founded more than a century ago and now has 20,000 members who attend hundreds of speeches and debates each year. Public radio broadcasts of keynote speakers reach an even larger mass audience.  “Everyone who visits the Club’s new headquarters will also learn something about the ILWU’s past and our work that continues to this day,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

Categories: Unions

IBU breaks ground on new apprenticeship training center in San Pedro

ILWU - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:41

The new training center is names after labor attorney Victor Kaplan in honor of longtime friendship and assistance to the IBU.

The Inlandboatmen’s Union, the marine division of the ILWU, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the training hall of their newly established apprenticeship program. The IBU apprenticeship is a two-year program that will provide mariners with the skills and knowledge to safely enter into a career in the marine industry. The training center will also provide classes for experienced mariners to renew their credentials in San Pedro. This will save them the added expense of having to travel to San Diego or to the Pacific Northwest. The program will consist of 3,000 hours of on the-job training and 420 hours of supplemental instruction and training.

It started on a napkin

Apprenticeship Director
Kenyata Whitworth

“It started on a paper napkin at a lunch meeting,” said IBU Southern California Regional Director John Skow. Kenyata Whitworth, who will serve as the programs first Apprenticeship Director first suggested the idea of an apprenticeship program. “At first I was hesitant because I thought apprenticeship programs were something for the Building Trades, but I eventually came around to the idea.”  Whitworth said he was inspired to start a local maritime apprenticeship program after talking with a friend who had recently joined the industry. “It’s very difficult to gain experience in the industry,” Whitworth said. “Employers are hesitant to hire people without sea time and sending people into the industry without training is not always the best thing for them.” Whitworth said his friend, who had three small children at the time, enrolled in the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon in order to get the training and experience he needed. The Tongue Point Academy is a Job Corp program and requires that students be at the Academy for 20 months. “He had to sacrifice time away from his family to get the training he needed. I don’t want others to be forced to make that same choice.”  “This program will be great for the IBU,” said IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast. “There’s a great need because this is an industry that is growing.” Mast said that the Southern California program can serve as a model. “Once this program gets going, we can take it to other regions and hopefully more employers will see the value in supporting this type of training program.”

Important partnerships 

John Skow, SoCal Regional Director of the IBU

A key partner for the IBU in the process was the Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE) at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Skow said their assistance was instrumental. DACE helped the IBU apply for a grant from the State of California that provided the start-up funds for the program and DACE also helped to secure classroom space at Harbor Occupational Center and to develop the program’s curriculum.  Pacific Tugboat Services (PTS), an IBU signatory, has also been at crucial partner in setting up the program. Steve Frailey from PTS spoke at the ceremony. He said he was grateful to be a part of establishing the apprenticeship program, which he said would help bring qualified mariners into the industry.

Honoring Victor Kaplan

The training hall was named in honor of Victor Kaplan, a labor attorney and long-time friend of the IBU. Kaplan, who recently turned 103, is the oldest practicing member of the California State Bar. He began his law career in 1935. At one point, he even tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job with the ILWU. Kaplan said that he was inspired by the New Deal to “take up the cause of the working man.” His commitment to helping workers was solidified by his experience working on the frontlines of the Potash strikes in Trona, CA in 1941 where he provided free legal-aid for union members while also picketing in solidarity with the workers.  Throughout his eight-decade career, Kaplan has fought for agricultural workers, miners, atomic and chemical workers and the IBU. He can often still be found at the IBU hall in San Pedro on Fridays offering legal assistance.  “Victor has been coming here every Friday for the past 9 years or so, offering his knowledge without a price tag,” Skow said. “This is why we wanted to dedicate the training hall to him, because we want to take that same model and apply that here. We want to share our knowledge with our apprentices.”

Finishing touches

The program will train 50 new apprentices for the industry over two years once the program is up and running. The buildout on the Victor Kaplan training hall is underway. The facility will include Desktop Ship Simulators, computer-bases simulations to train students in marine radar. A date has not been set for the official start of classes but Skow said he is hopeful that instruction can begin by the end of the year.


Categories: Unions

Pacific Coast Pensioners Celebrate 50th Anniversary

ILWU - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach.

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach, California where delegates marked their important organizational milestone. The convention was hosted by the Southern California Pensioners.

Golden Anniversary

“This year’s event is extra-special because it marks our ‘Golden Anniversary’ in honor of the 1967 founding of our group with help from ILWU President Harry Bridges, who encouraged us to come together, grow and become a vital part of the ILWU, which we continue to do,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre.

Record Attendance

The Southern California Pensioners Group rolled out the red carpet for all the delegates, officials and special guests who attended the event. Record-breaking attendance of over 250 people were packed into 4 days of events that began with a spirited PCPA Executive Board meeting on Sunday where issues were discussed and debated in front of a large group of observers.

Bags full of history

Sunday was also check-in day when delegates and guests first met the large team of volunteers composed of Convention Committee members who helped everyone register and receive their official 50th Anniversary Convention bag filled full of goodies. Included were boxes of See’s candy (union-made), a book of remarkable poems written by Jerry Brady, the Poet Laureate of the ILWU Pensioners. Also included was a beautiful hardcover book: “The Port of Los Angeles, An Illustrated History from 1850 to 1945,” which was provided courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Delegates and members meet

A reception was sponsored by Local 13 members on Sunday evening to welcome delegates, allow them to mingle with old friends and meet with active members and officers, including Local President Mark Mendoza and Vice President Gary Hererra. The event was held on the beautiful grounds of the Maya Hotel in Long Beach, which served as convention headquarters for the next four days. Drinks were served along with countless appetizers and a popular taco bar. Members of the ILWU Auxiliary hosted a Hospitality Room that became “the place to be and be seen” during the welcome reception and it remained open during the following four days, providing delegates and guests with complimentary beverages, fresh fruit, snacks and a place to meet, relax, and catch-up with old friends.

Opening with three anthems

Monday marked the official opening of the Convention, beginning with the National Anthems of the U.S., Canada and Panama. Words for each anthem were displayed on large screens which encouraged everyone to join in and sing words that were previously unknown to many in the audience.

Honoring the departed

A somber moment of silence followed the anthems, in honor of Pensioners who had passed-on since the last convention. Included was a special tribute to George Cobbs Jr., well-known and much-loved pensioner from the S.F. Bay area who helped countless ILWU members win the struggles against drug and alcohol addiction during his lifetime. A complete list of the dozens more pensioners who were honored by delegates after passing during the previous year are contained in the Convention’s official minutes and record.

 Officials in attendance

An introduction of ILWU officials and special guests who attended the convention was the next order of business. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice President Ray Familathe were all introduced, along with Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon. Also attending were a dozen local union presidents from up and down the coast, each of whom was introduced, welcomed and invited to deliver brief remarks during the proceedings.

Overview of the Port

The Convention was held along the waterfront of America’s largest Port complex that encompasses both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, which are administered under separate political jurisdictions. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka delivered the convention’s first major address with opening remarks and a power point presentation that emphasized growing consolidation within the global shipping industry that now has fewer but more powerful multinational players.

Time to learn and enjoy

Monday afternoon was dedicated to some fun and an educational tour. A fleet of modern buses took delegates on an informative Labor History tour with guides on each bus who noted points of interest, emphasizing dates of important longshore and other labor struggles. The final stop included a tour of Local 13’s new dispatch hall that is expected to open soon.

Catalina King tour

The highlight on Monday was a memorable cruise, dinner, and dance aboard the historic Catalina King vessel that accommodated 300 guests who were wined and dined while enjoying a fascinating narrated tour of both the ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach. Providing facts and details about the Port of Long Beach was PCPA’s own President, Greg Mitre, who at one time used to work as a Captain of the Catalina King. Details about the Port of Los Angeles were provided by Port Director Gene Seroka, who was onboard to give an impressive account of the Port’s operations. Dinner served onboard during the tour featured a fabulous BBQ selection of ribs, chicken and brisket, provided by retired ILWU crane operator Marvin Hardley & his amazing family. Live music and dancing moved many onto the floor thanks to the popular local band, “Time Machine,” that performed hits until the Catalina King returned to her berth in Long Beach.

International guests

Panama Solidarity: Panama Canal Pilots President Londor Rankin gave a
detailed update on the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division.

Tuesday provided delegates a chance to hear from distinguished guests who travelled thousands of miles to attend, beginning with Londor Rankin, President of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. Rankin was responsible for initiating contact many years ago with Vice President Familathe that eventually led to the formation of the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division. Captain Rankin, gave a detailed report regarding the newly-expanded canal that recently opened – along with some important labor and safety struggles between workers and their employers in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Rankin delivered good news about growth in the Panama Canal Division, thanks to a new group of stevedores who are ready to affiliate. Another very interesting report was presented by Raul Feuillet, who is also a Panama Canal pilot and President of the Panama Canal Pilots Credit Union. He explained how important the credit union has become to provide retirement savings to retirees there who would otherwise receive only modest Social Security payments. Following the Panama reports, brothers and  sisters from Canada and Alaska were welcomed and presented reports. Canadian pensioners continue to have a strong program and good participation. The Alaska report was focused on the dramatic growth and organizing that has taken place during the past year, making them now the fastest growing region of ILWU pensioners.

Overview from “down under”

Following lunch, President Barney Sanders of the Australian pensioners delivered a rousing speech that had many listening closely to better appreciate his sharp wit, charming accent and unusual Aussie expressions. As President of the Maritime Union of Australia Veterans (the Australian term for “Pensioners”), Sanders also travelled thousands of miles from his home in Brisbane to deliver a blistering account of labor struggles in Australian ports involving automation, mass lay-offs and firings, along with employer demands to “casualize” the maritime workforce. He noted that workers down under are facing the same ordeals as workers elsewhere, because the same global employers are increasingly controlling operations in ports around the world. He pointed to the current effort by big employers in Australia to eliminate local workers from staffing coastal vessels, similar to efforts underway in the U.S. to eliminate the Jones Act, which requires U.S. vessels serving domestic ports to hire U.S. crews.

Awards Tuesday

Stranahan Award: Southern California
Pensioner Herman Moreno was the recipient of this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty.

Tuesday night featured a big awards banquet. After a delicious dinner, several awards were presented, beginning with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who received the “friendly politician” award. Hahn has been a great friend of the ILWU for many decades, beginning with her service as a Los Angeles City Council member, then U.S. Congresswoman, and now County Supervisor. George Cobbs Jr., was honored posthumously with a special award for his many decades of service to the ILWU, particularly his leadership in the Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program. Next up was the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty. Southern California Pensioner Herman Moreno received this year’s award from PCPA President Greg Mitre who fought back tears as he explained how Herman has been a lifelong mentor to him and many others.

Special honors

Honoring the President: ILWU International President Robert McEllrath (right) was given a special award from the convention by PCPA President Greg Mitre (center). The award recognized McEllrath for his dedication and service to the ILWU. Southern California Pensioner and PCPA Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, (left) composed an epic poem for McEllrath.

The last award of the evening was presented to International President Bob McEllrath, who was honored for his years of dedication and service to the ILWU. McEllrath was first presented with an epic poem composed by the ILWU Pensioner Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, then thanked repeatedly for serving in so many different capacities over the years, including Coast Committeeman, International Vice President, and his current post as International President. At the previous ILWU Convention, McEllrath announced he would not seek another term and that he was looking forward to becoming a pensioner soon – reminding the Award Banquet audience that he will soon be joining their ranks. After receiving more thanks and praise from the pensioners for his  lifetimes of service and support,  McEllrath was presented with a special gift that he is expected to utilize during his upcoming retirement.

During his earlier speech, McEllrath said: “This is the last time I’ll be speaking to you as your International President – and the next time I’m here, it will be as Big Bob the pensioner.” McEllrath said the Pensioners remain a critical part of the union, and noted, “We’re all still in the struggle and when a union brother needs help, we’ll be there.” Conclusion, resolutions & Portland Wednesday marked the culmination of the Convention, including the election of PCPA officers. Elected to serve without objection by acclimation were President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Christine Gordon.  Several resolutions were considered with all passing unanimously on Tuesday:

  • Support for new “Medicare for All” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, and others;
  • Support for Alaska Pensioners including a visit by Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux to attend their upcoming convention on October 4;
  • A letter urging the Coast Committee to continue doing everything possible to implement improve-ments for pension benefits to surviving spouses;
  • Support for a documentary film effort to interview 50 waterfront families living and working in LA and Long Beach;
  • Opposition to President Trump’s racist remarks and hate groups he has encouraged;
  • Directing the PCPA to implement a 2009 resolution to create an Education Committee.

Prints of a group photo were distributed on Wednesday morning to each delegate, thanks to efforts on the previous day by Local 13 member Robin Doyno. President Mitre thanked all who attended the event and brought the entire committee of volunteers up on stage, and they received a rousing round of applause. After announcing the next ILWU-PCPA Convention will be held in Portland, Oregon in September of 2018, delegates adjourned and headed home.

Categories: Unions

fleet memo for October 14 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 09:13
Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for October 7 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 09:11
Categories: Unions

Bay Area ILWU locals help North Bay fire victims

ILWU - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:02

In order to provide support and relief to the many fire victims in the North Bay, all ILWU Bay Area locals are collecting donations at the ILWU Dispatch hall at 400 North Point St in San Francisco. SSA Matson has generously donated a 40 ft. container for use in this relief project. It will be delivered the week of Oct 16th.

Please give what you can to help provide support and comfort to those who have lost so much. Essential supplies include clothes, blankets, new pillows, new underwear, packaged prepared foods, diapers, baby food and water.

Categories: Unions

Unions cheer as Uber is kicked-out of London

ILWU - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:38

Uber – the anti-union, “disruptive” high-tech darling of venture capitalists – got a bloody nose in London late September from public regulators who refused to issue the company a license and declared them “not fit and proper.”  This wasn’t the first time Uber has clashed with governments in cities including Austin, Texas, Paris and Rio de Janeiro where there have been bitter conflicts. But London is Western Europe’s largest city, the region’s techhub and the biggest body so far to “dis” the “disruptive” technology giant.

Unions speak out

London’s rejection followed militant protests by taxi drivers in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The decision was celebrated by local and international labor unions because Uber has compiled such a long record of worker and public criticism in such a short period of time, including allegations that workers were cheated, passengers deceived and labor standards lowered for taxi drivers.

Plenty of problems

Uber has been accused and sued for lying and concealing details about accident insurance and driver background checks. Drivers say the company cheated them out of fair pay, tips, benefits and employee status. Pedestrians and bicycle riders have complained that city streets are much more dangerous. San Francisco now has 45,000 new “ride-sharing” drivers on city streets, and they account for a majority of some traffic violations, according to SF police testimony in late September. “Walking on workers for profit” Paddy Crumlin, head of the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) and President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global body that includes the ILWU, praised London’s decision for getting tougher with Uber.  “This is another nail in the coffin for a business model that walks all over the rights of workers and the safety of passengers in the name of profits. We are not opposed to new technology in transport, but we are opposed to a return to Victorian working conditions. Workers today need good jobs and strong regulation to keep corporate greed in check,” said Crumlin.

Business model based on subsidy

Crumlin’s critical stance is shared by business analysts who have questioned Uber’s behavior in the pages of Fortune, Forbes, the Washington Post and other outlets. They wonder about the company’s dependence on massive venture capital funding – $15 billion since 2010 – that sustains Uber’s massive losses in order to achieve their goal of dominating the marketplace for ridesharing today, and self-driving cars in the future. Critics say Uber has operated at a loss for eight years since it started, and may continue losing money for years to come. The company reported a loss of $708 million in the first quarter of 2016 and lost $991 the quarter before. But the losses are all part of a business model that subsidizes driver pay, lures riders with unsustainably low rates, and manipulates laws here and abroad to avoid regulations and taxes. Uber has ignored local ordinances in Virginia, Texas and other states where local governments tried to regulate Uber and other ride-sharing companies. Taxpayers foot the bill Uber’s funding doesn’t just come from private venture capital. Taxpayers in San Francisco and other locations are providing Uber and other hi-tech giants with big tax breaks. Two years ago in 2015, the city Controller estimated that Uber and other hi-tech companies had received $34 million in tax breaks that year, and the amount is probably higher today. Those tax breaks are going to companies that claim to be worth billions; Uber’s valuation alone is estimated at $68 billion, and some believe it will soon be $100 billion. Others say Uber is worth far less, but as a private company without public shares and public documents, an accurate valuation is hard to determine.

 Tax avoidance

To qualify for special tax breaks, Uber established their headquarters building on San Francisco’s Market Street, a few blocks from the ILWU International offices. Now the company has added a new headquarters building in the Netherlands, believed to be part of a massive tax-avoidance scheme, similar to ones used by Apple, General Electric and other corporations to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes. Ironically, the Netherland is now in the process of banning Uber from operating their car-sharing platform there, one of a half-dozen nations that are taking similar action.

Prices too good to be true

A recent ten-mile trip in the Bay Area may illustrate why the economics of ride-sharing may be “too-good-to-be-true.” The rider paid Uber $12.00 for a trek from Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. The company took 20% of the total, leaving the driver with about $9.60. But that was before the driver had to pay a $6.00 bridge toll, leaving just $3.60 to cover his wage plus the cost of gas, oil, maintenance and depreciation on an expensive automobile. Other drivers in different circumstances may do better, but this example illustrates why the system’s “success” deserves closer scrutiny. In 2015, one transportation analyst used Uber’s own financial documents to conclude that the company was charging only 41% of what their ride service actually costs to operate.

Rates will eventually rise

Analysts and Uber officials admit the company will eventually be raising rates, but probably not until they eliminate the competition and achieve their goal of market domination. One estimate last year put Uber’s market share at 78%, which seems impressive, but the company appears determined to capture an even larger share by quashing Lyft and other competitors.

 Predatory behavior?

Similar business practices were once considered vile, predatory and sometimes illegal. During the turn of the 19th Century, workers and farmers organized against monopolies or “trusts” formed by oil, steel, railroad and grain companies that killed competitors and fixed prices. The result was social unrest, formation of worker political parties and anti-trust legislation. Anger against big banks and Wall Street rose again during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, sparking a new round of political action, mass organizing of workers by the ILWU and other unions, and more laws to control corporations and investors. Enforcement of these laws weakened after the crisis passed and corporate power grew in Washington. In recent decades, politicians have grown increasingly fond of Wall Street investors and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Trump’s new push to lower taxes for these and other corporations, along with super-rich individuals, is a new indicator of how far America has gone down that road.

Amazon’s similar strategy

Uber isn’t the only start-up that’s using massive funding from venture capitalists to incur losses while stomping out the competition. Amazon seeks to dominate retail and delivery markets. But unlike Uber, Amazon directly employs about 180,000 workers in the U.S. with many of them receiving benefits. Another 100,000 will be hired during the coming year, but even when that total hits 280,000 it will still be a small fraction of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees. Like Uber, Amazon also uses vast numbers of “independent contractors” to deliver products. In this way, both Uber and Amazon are cheating workers out of Social Security, disability, benefits or other payroll taxes for their allegedly “independent” workers. Both companies also share an appetite for soliciting hefty taxpayer subsidies as incentives to locate new facilities. Amazon is now soliciting bids to locate a new headquarters building somewhere in the U.S. that will employ thousands of workers; the highest bidder is expected to pay billions in public subsidies to win the contest.

Traditional organizing is tougher

Uber’s “independent contractor” model means organizing traditional unions is much more challenging. Ironically, taxi-drivers who face the same legal obstacles as independent contractors, were among the first to win improvements through organizing a “union” like New York City’s Taxi Workers Alliance. Uber workers have used a similar approach to successfully organize legal and political actions that have yielded some concessions and financial settlements. With anti-union courts now weakening labor laws covering traditional, organizing these “advocacy and action” groups may become more common and necessary. Unions that support and show solidarity to these non-traditional efforts may find themselves in good company with new friends, allies and some public support.

Privatization wedge

Another reason for all workers – not just taxi drivers – to be concerned about Uber, Lyft and similar examples of non-union “disruptive” hi-tech companies, is that they are now actively soliciting business from public transit systems, many operated by union members. The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida near Orlando recently decided to subsidize the cost of Uber rides for residents instead of offering public transit. Lyft says they’re already negotiating similar deals with unnamed “large city transit systems.” A city official at Altamonte Springs says his city allocated $500,000 in Uber ride subsidies for the coming year, that was motivated in part from the failure by local governments to provide decent public transit options for residents in the region. Before settling on Uber, the city considered operating a public van or small bus to shuttle residents, but the estimate of $1.5 million for that service made the $500,000 subsidy to Uber seem like a bargain. Gouged by the gig economy

“All union members, whether they’re in the public or private sector, need to be aware of these non-union ‘gig-economy’ companies who make claims that are “too-good-to-be-true,’” said the ILWU’s Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “At the same time, we have to help the workers at these new companies learn about their rights and support their efforts to organize for improvements. Our problem isn’t with the drivers; it’s with the owners and investors who are trying to profit on the backs of others.”


Categories: Unions

Support the Jones Act

IBU - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 11:46
How to Register Your Opinion

Categories: Unions

Maritime's Wall

IBU - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 14:54
The Jones Act And Homeland Security In The 21st Century For nearly a century, the Jones Act has protected the U.S.
Categories: Unions

IBU's Number 1 Enemy!

IBU - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 09:54
Categories: Unions

Fleet Memo for September 30 2017

IBU - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 11:07
Categories: Unions

Training Record Book - Program

IBU - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 09:10
The Training Record Books will be issued beginning Monday, October 2, 2017 to those new workers who have completed the IBU Basic Seamanship Class in 2017.
Categories: Unions

Request Governor's Signature for RM3

IBU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 18:07
SB 595 (Beall), the bill to authorize Regional Measure 3 to invest in major congestion relief and mass transit improvement projects throughout the Bay Area passed the legislature.
Categories: Unions

Fleet Memo for September 23 2017

IBU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 15:46
Categories: Unions

Pensioners & young workers show solidarity for Idaho silver miners

ILWU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:44

Standing up for striking silver miners: ILWU members from Northwest locals have been supporting a difficult strike by Idaho silver miners that began last March

Idaho’s “Silver Valley” may sound romantic, but hundreds of miners who work deep inside the region’s deep, hot and dangerous hard-rock silver mines were forced out on strike last March and now find themselves on the frontline of America’s working class struggle.

 ILWU support

 ILWU Pensioners and young workers from Northwest locals are stepping up to help roughly 250 miners and their families employed by Hecla to work in the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho where silver, lead and zinc are extracted from narrow shafts up to 8500 feet underground.

 Early contributions

 In early May, the Seattle Pensioners made a $500 contribution to help the members of United Steelworkers Local 5114. Additional support came the following month when Local 19 donated $5000 on June 8, and Local 21 donated the same amount on June 14.

Personal delivery

 “I read about what was happening to these miners, and thought my fellow pensioners would want to do something,” said Mark Downs who personally delivered an early check and solidarity letter from the ILWU Seattle Pensioner’s Club, after making the five-hour drive across Washington State with two other activists.

May Day decision

 Downs noted that the Seattle Pensioners had held their monthly meeting on May Day, “which was a pretty good day to share some solidarity,” he said, adding that the group’s vote to contribute was unanimous. Downs stayed overnight in Idaho near the small town of Mullan where the Lucky Friday miners are taking their stand against Hecla, and he attended a union picnic the next day with the striking miners.

 Young Workers & pensioners 

Downs returned from his trip excited to share his experiences. Word of the strike reached Tacoma where Local 23’s Young Worker Committee (YWC) has been meeting with Pensioners on Thursdays for the past two years. YWC activist Brian Skiffington did some research about the strike and took his own trip to Mullan where he met with the miners and reported back to a joint meeting of the Tacoma Pensioners and the YWC. Both groups decided to launch a new round of solidarity over the summer.

Larger caravan

Hard rock miners are tough: Before the strike, workers at Hecla’s Lucky Friday mine went to work each day to recover silver, lead and zinc that made their employer profitable. The members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 say the strike has put significant economic pressure on the company, contributing to a $26 million quarterly loss.

A larger solidarity caravan with 14 participants was organized to depart on August 2, in time to mark 130 days on the picket line. Caravaners made their way to the Wolf Lodge campground where they received a warm welcome from miners and family members, including camp “mom” Megan Chavez and cook Cory Chavez, who prepared breakfast early the next morning.

After finishing the hearty meals, the solidarity visitors were soon mixing it up with miners and other supporters in a spirited protest held in front of Hecla’s corporate headquarters in Coeur d’Alene that attracted 200 participants – a new turnout record.Songs were sung, chants and slogans were shouted and solidarity signs drew many honks from supporters driving past the protest.

Strikers stand firm

The action marked more than 4 months on strike without a single miner crossing the picket line, and no ore being mined at the Lucky Friday. While over half the miners have been forced to search elsewhere for work to support their families, over 100 remain nearby to handle picket duty and other tasks.

Grateful for support

Miners were grateful and enthusiastic about receiving the outside support and checks from members at Locals 19, 22, 23 and 24 plus the Pensioners. The Pierce County Labor Council also provided a donation to support the struggle on behalf of all union members working in the greater Tacoma area running east to Mt. Rainier. Also contributing was the South Sound Jobs for Justice chapter.

Sharing experiences

Local 23’s Brian Skiffington expressed the views of many when he delivered a brief but inspiring talk based on ideas raised during many meetings back home with the Young Workers Committee and Pensioners, based on the ILWU’s “Guiding Principles” and slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Making new friends

“Getting better acquainted and developing friendships with these miners and their families was the best part,” said Tacoma Pensioner President Mike Jagielski. He said the encounters with Rick “Redman” Norman, an experienced miner, longtime union member and historian were especially interesting because “Redman was able to entertain and educate us with his historical facts, quick wit and good humor.”

Century of support

The history of solidarity from waterfront workers in the Puget Sound to the Idaho silver miners goes back more than a century, according to Northwest labor historian Ron Magden, who says he found records dating back at least to 1906, when $400 was sent to help silver miners with a similar struggle at the turn of the century.

Rugged beauty, deadly work

Silver Valley lies in a deep gorge where ancient Native foot trails are now covered by Interstate 90, connecting traffic between Spokane to the west and Coeur d’Alene to the east. The rich mineral veins that run through the mountains have made corporations wealthy for more than a century – while miners have struggled to avoid death and serious injuries – and get a fair share of the staggering mineral wealth that they have produced: 1.3 billion ounces of silver; half a billion ounces of gold, 200 thousand tons of copper, plus much more lead and zinc.

The Lucky Friday alone was expected to produce almost 4 million ounces of silver this year that sells for about $9 an ounce. But things changed quickly because of the strike and picket lines holding firm, contributing to Hecla’s loss of $26 million last quarter. The company is now paying $1.5-$2 million a month just to maintain their non-productive mine during the strike.

Cutbacks force strike 

Young workers in action: From left to right: Tyler Rasmussen (Local 23 casual), Tyler Brady (Local 22 Port Mechanic), and Nyef Mohamed (Local 23 Casual). All three are active participants in Tacoma’s Young Workers Committee.

The contract covering miners at the Lucky Friday expired over a year ago, in May of 2016. Workers felt forced to strike after Hecla imposed a concessionary “last, best and final” contract proposal on March 13, 2017. Only two of the 246 miners opposed a strike vote. Anger was fueled by company demands to raise health insurance costs and impose pay cuts. The company also demanded an end to some health and safety protections – including an important seniority provision that gives miners a say in who works together in the dangerous underground tunnels.

“Lowest cost” producer

 Hecla is the largest silver producer in the United States with mines in Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to their size, the company operates on a “lowest cost” philosophy – an approach that may warm the hearts of Wall Street investors but can raise the body count for miners.

Deaths on the job

A series of disasters in 2011 at Hecla’s Lucky Friday killed two miners and seriously wounded seven others, triggering a mandatory one-year shutdown by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Families of the dead and injured workers later sued the company for allowing dangerous conditions inside the mine, but workplace injury laws – including the workers compensation system enacted a century ago – make it difficult to hold companies legally accountable. Idaho’s anti-union Supreme Court dismissed the families’ claims in 2016.

Punishing workers

  One of Hecla’s concessionary demands would reduce the 3-year “recall rights” down to just 90 days – a right miners need to keep their jobs due to closures or breaks-in-service. Under this scheme, future safety closures could cost all members to lose their jobs – a policy which some believe would dissuade workers from reporting or acting against dangerous conditions.

 Deadly mining history 

The 2011 disaster was just one of many mining tragedies in Silver Valley throughout the past century that have killed and seriously injured each generation of miners. Just a few miles from the Lucky Friday mine, a plaque memorializes the site where 91 men were killed at the Kellogg Mine in 1972.

Research proves cuts can kill

The legacy of deaths and injuries in the mining industry is well known to every family in the region. Earlier this year, a team of university researchers proved what workers have long known; that “cutting costs” and skimping on safety protections in order to boost profits and please investors, has a direct and negative impact on worker safety. An independent study published in 2017, documented how a wide-range of U.S. companies that strive hardest to please Wall Street investors have employee injury rates that are 12% higher than their peers. 

Community support

The striking miners are trying to win their struggle for safety and fair pay by enlisting community support, including local businesses that depend on miners for customers. Signs saying, “We support the Lucky Friday miners” are proudly displayed in many Silver Valley stores – similar to ones that appeared in store windows at Boron in the 2010 when the mining giant Rio Tinto locked-out 450 ILWU Local 30 members from a borate mine and processing plant for 100 days. ILWU members also enlisted small business support during the 2011 struggle against the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, WA, and during the lengthy 2013 lockout that followed by grain terminal operators at Portland, Vancouver, Longview and Seattle.

 Friends and families

 Like most ILWU struggles, spouses, family members and friends are playing important roles in the Idaho miners’ strike, including help with media outreach. A letter-to-the-editor published by the Shoshone News Press, titled “Union women unite,” read: “As wives or significant others, it is so important to support EVERYONE as the strike progresses,” wrote Angela Thompson in her letter. “Don’t let HECLA push the new contract on us. Don’t let HECLA think we, as women, are a weak link. Remember that there are parts of the ‘last, best, and final offer’ that could hinder safety, diminish our quality of living, diminish our healthcare options and take away from our quality family time.”

Former Local 21 President’s letter

Former ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman, who led the fight in Longview to protect good jobs and ILWU jurisdiction at EGT in 2011, sent an early personal “open” letter of support which the miners quickly posted on their USW Local 5114 Facebook page.  “When I started looking into this strike, it became obvious to me that this is about ‘power and control,’ which many struggles are,” he said. Coffman explained that he decided to write the letter after seeing paid advertisements that Hecla was running in local Idaho newspapers, claiming that “safety and health of employees was the company’s top concern.”

Corporate campaign pressure

 Besides staffing picket lines, soliciting and disbursing hardship funds, conducting community outreach and media work, union members are also putting pressure on Hecla by analyzing the company’s corporate structure. Now that the company has admitted losing $26 million last quarter and wasting roughly $2 million a month to maintain an empty mine, workers intend to share this and other information with Hecla’s business and banking partners. Demonstrating in Denver On May 17, miners joined forces with fellow Steelworkers and other union activists from the Denver Labor

Federation to converge on the annual shareholder meeting of QEP, a Denver-based gas and oil company that’s got a cozy relationship with Hecla. The big silver mining company CEO Phillips Baker, sits on QEP’s Board of Directors – and QEP’s CEO Charles Stanley sits on Hecla’s Board.

Millions for the boss; cuts for workers

While Hecla executives are demanding cuts from the miners, their own pay has been more than generous. Hecla CEO Phillips Baker received $4.7 million in 2015 and got a huge raise to $6.4 million in 2016. Miners said that one year of Baker’s pay raise would cover their higher health insurance costs that are an important issue in the dispute.

Solidarity from far and wide

Besides help from the ILWU, significant support has come from Steelworker Locals, including Local 675 in Carson that is a longtime ally of Harborarea ILWU members. Long-distance solidarity includes the miner’s union in Mexico and Walmart workers near Tacoma. Leaders of the strike say they’ve been overwhelmed with support, which is a good thing, because they are preparing for a long, difficult battle. After the August 2

caravan and rally at Hecla’s headquarters, the company agreed to sit down with the union – only the third time since the strike began. There was no immediate progress, but workers remain determined to stay out as long as it takes to win.

“These workers are fighting for some measure of control over their jobs, just like we would fight like hell and back to save our hiring halls,” said Mike Jagielski. “These guys are used to working underground every day in conditions that are almost impossible for most of us to imagine – so I’m betting on the miners to win and with support from us and others, I think they will.”

Donations and solidarity messages can be sent to USW 5114, P.O. Box 427, Mullan, ID 83846. Local 23 Pensioner President Mike Jagielski and Local 23’s Brian Skiffington contributed to this article.

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